Good Morning, Afternoon, Night (depending on where you are and when you read 🙂 ) dear Poets and Writers!
I have always aimed at organising myself better not only with writing but with life in general. In March I read an interesting article in Randy Ingermanson’s Newsletter “The Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine” about a tool he uses: A weekly review. There were times when I did that, however, life got in the way and you know how that one goes :-).
So here are Randy’s thoughts and suggestions on organising your writing:
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
Organization: Your Weekly Review
If you’re serious about getting things done in your life, then you need to have a regular weekly habit of reviewing the previous week and planning the next one.
That sounds fun, doesn’t it? It’s right up there with changing the oil and cleaning the toilet on most people’s list of Things To Avoid Doing Pretty Much Forever.
Why You Need a Weekly Review
Here’s the thing. Your novel is not going to write itself. Big publishers are not going to throw money at you to write your novel. Truth be told, if your novel is never written, nobody will notice or care. (The good news—if your novel does get written, there’s a fighting chance that people will notice and care.)
The brutal reality is that if you want to get a good novel written, you’re going to have to do three things that are highly labor-intensive and that won’t earn you a dime up-front:
- Develop the skills to write a good novel.
- Write a good novel.
- Polish your novel.
I’m not trying to rain on the parade or tell you there’s no parade. There is a parade and it’s a good one. I’m trying to say that it’s a serious, major effort to make the parade happen, and you won’t get paid for it until very late in the game, if you ever get paid. You’ll need to spend hundreds of hours on this thing. Maybe thousands. You need to find a way to squeeze those hundreds of hours out of an already jam-packed life.
That means giving up some things. Saying yes to writing a novel means saying no to a lot of other wonderful things.
This could take you forever, or you could get it done in short order, and get your book out the door, and have it earning you money. The choice is yours, and a big part of that choice is taking control of your life.
I know some lucky people who are good at taking control of their life. I’m not one of those people. I have a lot of things going on in my life, and they all want to take control of me.
I deal with them by fighting back, and a big part of that fight is my Weekly Review.
The Weekly Review
This is not complicated. Once a week, (almost always on a Saturday afternoon), I sit down with my gigantic To Do List and work through it. I look at how I did last week, but more importantly, I look at what I want to get done in the next week.
There are three key questions to ask:
- What things are scheduled in already?
- What unscheduled things do I have to get done this week?
- What optional things do I most want to get done this week?
Questions #1 and #2 are key. Those are my constraints, because they tell me how many hours are already spoken for in the coming week. Question #3 then lets me pick out the optional things that I could reasonably get done.
Why is this useful? That’s easy.
I mentioned I have a gigantic To Do List. It’s uncontrollably large. But the key point is that every item on the list is tagged. I tag them with the time-frame in which I want to get them done. There are things I want to do “someday maybe.” There are things I want to do “this year.” Others that I want to do “this quarter.” Others that are “this month.” And a few that are “this week.”
The Weekly Review lets me keep the set of “this week” tasks down to a reasonable number. These are the things that matter right now. The other stuff will get done in good time, but just not right now.
What this means is that every day when I decide what I’m going to tackle today, I have a short list of things to choose from. I don’t have to look at the gigantic To Do List. That would be too cruel. All I have to look at is the items tagged “this week.” Every day, I choose a reasonable set to tackle. And it takes me five minutes, maximum, to plan my day.
I don’t have to wonder if there’s something coming up that I’ve forgotten about. During my Weekly Review, I already looked ahead and checked that. If there’s something coming up this week, my Weekly Review tags it as “this week.”
This is how I get stuff done without going crazy.
The gigantic To Do List will never go away. It’ll always be gigantic. It’ll always contain a bunch of pipe dreams that will never happen.
But the Weekly Review ensures that the things that are either urgent or important bubble to the top and get done.
No, the Weekly Review is not sexy. It’s not fun. But I find it absolutely indispensable. It takes about an hour each week, and at the end of it, I have some feeling of control over my life again.
- Are you doing a Weekly Review already? If so, congratulations, and you get a gold star. You might want to think about whether you can do it better. Maybe you can make a template for the Weekly Review so it goes quicker and so you never forget a step in your process. But if it’s working well for you, don’t change it. You’re good.
- If you’re not doing a Weekly Review, I’m not here to shame you. I’m here to tell you to do it, because it’s good for you. You’ll get more things done. You’ll be more in control. You’ll feel better. Really, you will. Now what day of the week can you schedule your regular Weekly Reviews? What time of the day should you plan on? How much time do you want to budget?
- If you don’t have any idea what to even do in a Weekly Review or how to get started, and you’d really like to punch me right now, that’s OK. Keep your distance, please, and go check out TheSecretWeapon.org, which has a bunch of free videos on how to take control of your life. In an hour, you’ll know exactly how to do everything. That’s an hour well spent, and you may never need to learn one more thing about organization in your entire life.
This is not a feel-good article today, and my apologies on that. I’m not trying to make you happy. I’m trying to radically boost the chances that you’ll get your novel published someday.
You can thank me when you accept your Pulitzer.